kls_eloise (kls_eloise) wrote,

So, today my mother said to me "You're keeping track of all of this aren't you?  I want you to - for Bruce."  And now I guess I'm going to indulge in some of that "anger" part of grieving, because REALLY?  His kids are grown, graduated, and gone.  He's the one who owns his business, has a house in Florida, and is going to sell to his partner and retire "when he's ready."  My daughter is eight, I'm wondering how we're going to keep a roof over our heads until someone finds work, and will never, ever be able to retire.  But let's worry about Bruce.

But I said that I would.  So let me see if I can sort out this timeline here where I can find it again.

March 4, Charlotte and I went down to spend the day with mom and dad to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  Mom looked awful - she had just fallen a couple of days prior, and had bruised herself from head to toe.  She was having a hard time getting around, and ended up going to lie down.  Dad and I talked about it - apparently she'd been falling, but he didn't feel like her doctor was being responsive to the problems she was having.  In a moment of pure priescence he said "I don't want to have her taken to the hospital, because I'm afraid if she goes, she'll never come back."

A few days after that she called about... damn.  I don't remember.  It confused me, because whatever it was she wasn't making a lot of sense.  A few days after that she called with her usual "I havne't talked to you in so long - it's like your phone is broken."  When I pointed out that we had just talked a few days earlier she got snippy, and I had to draw her out to talk.  I don't recall about what - we just chatted.  She'd finally been to the doctor, and they got a bad EKG.  Sent it to her cardiologist, and she was going to have an appointment sooner than her regurlarly scheduled echo.  It worried me that she didn't remember the previous conversation.  A couple of days after that she had a perfectly normal EKG at the cardiologist, but they moved up her echo appointment.  I made a point to send pictures of the snowstorm, and Charlotte's snowman, because I know how much she loves getting pictures of Charlotte.

Dad called on the 16th.  Mom couldn't walk down the hall to the living room - she was too weak.  We talked ourselves into having her transported to the hospital.  That evening things were looking up - it turned out that her potassium was critically low, which would cause all of the symptoms she'd been having.  It looked like we had an answer.  The CT scan of her brain came back normal, so no stroke.  That was Thursday.

On Friday, I gave her a call.  She usually wants us all to leave her alone when she's in the hospital, but she'd been so unhappy that I hadn't been calling enough that I figured I ought to.  It was a short call, since neither of us really had anything to talk about.  Later that night dad called and said that they were going to do a CT scan of her chest.  The x-ray looked odd, and they wanted a better picture.  On Saturday they told us that the scan showed masses in her lung, and nodules on her liver.  They still needed to do a biopsy, but it was likely fully metastisized lung cancer.  I can spell metastisized without spell check.  That pretty much sums things up right now.

I couldn't go down Monday morning.  Because the previous week I'd finally gotten around to opening the letter from DMV about my car registration, and discovered that it was my driver's license that had expired in February.  And I hadn't felt like going to AAA to do the renewal on Thursday or Friday, and you need a valid photo ID to enter the hospital.  So Monday morning I went and renewed my license, and after school the three of us went down to visit.  Charlotte had made her a drawing of a rainbow that said "Get well Grandma."

I keep trying to talk to Charlotte about it, but I can't do it without crying.  I don't want to frighten her, but I also want her to understand - Grandma shouldn't just disappear.

Tuesday we skipped youth combat practice, and Charlotte and I went back down after the book fair at school - my brother had driven down earlier.  I told her I was going, and asked if she wanted to come - she did.  As we left, mom told me "Don't come back tomorrow - I want you to get back to normal."  So Wednesday I stayed home.  Wednesday the results of the biopsy came in: small cell lung cancer.  I did a little reading, and only 10-15% of lung cancers are small cell, and it's almost invariably related to smoking.  It's incredibly aggressive and fast.  So much so that it doesn't even really have "stages," it has "limited stage" and "extensive stage," they almost never find it until it's extensive, and once it's there you're pretty much done.  It's very vulnerable to chemo, but there's apparently been very little work done on this particular cancer, so the chemo for small stage lung cancer is the chemo of twenty years ago.  So it's rough, and the cancer is pretty much guaranteed to come back.

She told me to stay home on Wednesday, but hadn't said anything about Thursday, so I headed down this morning.  Charlotte decided not to come with me today.  She didn't want to be up late tonight because she has to be up early on Friday for STEM club.  I figured I would hang out until the oncologist came by to talk about options, and then head home.  Well, she didn't show up until 4:00pm, and then there was a HUGE language barrier.  I don't know if she's a good doctor or not, but she's a *terrible* choice for someone to explain treatment options to a family.  Honestly, the only reason I had any idea what she was blathering about was because of the time I'd spent online.  Also - don't spend five minutes deliniating all the things you *could* do, IF it were non-small cell cancer.  That's just mean.

The gist of it is that the two options are 1. chemo, and 2. nothing.  And by the way, mom isn't strong enough for chemo.  Not that it matters - the thought of it clearly horrified her.  Prognosis is four months, give or take three months.  She's very lucid.  She's confused about where she is and how long she's been there, but she conveyed very clearly to both doctors that she feels that for her age it's not something she wants.  She says that she's had a good life, a good family, her kids are grown and settled, and that she just wants to be done.

I can't even type that without crying.

Obviously, what I want is different from what she wants, but I don't get a vote.  Basically, all that is keeping her alive right now is the high flow oxygen, and she hates that setup - it looks horribly uncomfortable, and she can't ever take it off.  I gather that under the aegis of "palliative care" in the interest of making her comfortable, at some point they can remove that and put her on an oxygen mask.  But that won't be enough, and once that change is made, it will probably be a matter of hours.

I have a whole bunch of thoughts about end of life, and how true it is that we have kinder options for our pets than our family, but I can't face that right now.

Tomorrow Bruce and all the family are driving down to say good bye.  I don't know if he'll come back after that.  Probably not.  I feel like after I left this afternoon mom and dad may have decided that once all the family has visited, that's it.  I've told Bob to let Erica know that if she wants to see Grandma, I need to be able to say "She's coming down on [date,]" and that date had better be in the next few days.  That's all I can do.

I called Bruce tonight and asked them to lean on both mom and dad HARD to hang on until her birth certificate (or word that there isn't one) arrives.  She's been wending her way through the system for *years* to get some information on her birth family - to know where she came from.  Years of dealing with Catholic Charities, and then the Lutherans when CC got out of the adoption business and turned it over; with the county court, the department of health, etc.  We're at the last step - she got the court order authorizing the department of health to release the certificate, and - I believe - requested it.  It could literally come any day - and I bet my nephew the lawyer could help speed it along.  I just...I would hate for her to die with that undone.  She may listen to him.

When I was little, I used to flip over the magazines in the bathroom to show the American Cancer Society ads they ran in the '70s that showed cancerous lungs because I wanted my parents to stop smoking so badly.

I thought we would have more time.  Two weeks ago we had forever.
Tags: family

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